ABUJA (Reuters) – The defeated candidate in Nigeria’s ruling party presidential primaries, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, will not go to court to challenge the outcome of the polls, his campaign spokesman said on Wednesday.
Abubakar was defeated heavily by President Goodluck Jonathan at last Thursday’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) primaries and his polling agents said they had refused to sign off on the result, raising fears of a legal battle or split in the party.
Prominent northern politicians within the party who are opposed to Jonathan, including ex-military ruler Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) and former national security adviser Aliyu Gusau, met Abubakar on Sunday to discuss their next move.
“Atiku met with IBB and Gusau and they decided not to challenge Jonathan’s emergence as the presidential candidate in court,” Abubakar’s campaign spokesman Garba Shehu said.
Jonathan’s candidacy in the April 9 presidential election is controversial because of a “zoning agreement” in the PDP under which power is supposed to rotate between the mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south every two terms.
Jonathan, the first head of state from the oil-producing Niger Delta in the south, inherited the presidency last year when his predecessor Umaru Yar’Adua, a northerner, died.
Some PDP stalwarts — including Babangida and Gusau — say a northerner must complete what would have been Yar’Adua’s second term and backed Abubakar as a “consensus candidate” against Jonathan at the primaries.
Abubakar has stopped short of congratulating Jonathan.
“The issues of power sharing and zoning remain important to them (Abubakar, Babangida and Gusau) and they will stay in the party and continue to fight for those issues,” Shehu said.
Jonathan clinched victory in the primaries by a wider margin than expected but faced some resistance in the north. Babangida and Gusau’s home states voted against him.
Jonathan is the now favourite to win the presidential election as the PDP has won every such poll in Africa’s most populous nation since military rule ended in 1999.